Thousands of LGBTQ veterans who were discharged under the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” military policy may be eligible for full benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Although the system was abrogated a decade ago, the VA has yet to recognize those who were impacted.
In a statement, the assistant secretary for public affairs in VA’s Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, Kayla Williams, wrote, “Today, we are also taking steps to clarify VA policy for Veterans who were given other than honorable discharges based on homosexual conduct, gender identity or HIV status.”
Williams went on to outline the potential benefits, she wrote, “Under this newly-issued guidance, VA adjudicators shall find that all discharged service members whose separation was due to sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status are considered ‘Veterans’ who may be eligible for VA benefits, like VR&E, home loan guaranty, compensation & pension, health care, homeless program and/or burial benefits, so long as the record does not implicate a statutory or regulatory bar to benefits.”
Since the policy’s enactment in 1994, an estimated 14,000 service members were discharged before its repeal in 2011. Prior to 1994, the military questioned soldiers about homosexual activity, whereas today LGBTQ individuals are free to join any branch.
Previous surveys suggest the majority of military members are accepting of serving alongside members of the LGBTQ community. The Center for American Progress Action Fund reports, “A survey of 545 service members who served in Afghanistan and Iraq found that 73 percent are comfortable in the presence of gay men and lesbians.” The minority against the proposal included 20 percent who said that they were uncomfortable, 5 percent “very uncomfortable,” and 15 percent feeling “somewhat uncomfortable.”
In the years since the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy was repealed, the military culture has seemed to evolve progressively. For instance, an Air Force base recently hosted a drag show, claiming the performance was “essential to the morale, cohesion, and readiness of the military.”
ARTICLE: ANTOINETTE AHO
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: DAILY ADVENT
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